How to set up a design firm in 365 days.
By Stewart Ainslie on 15.03.2019
Don’t Walk was established by designers with a shared passion for hillwalking.
We’re not great at hillwalking.
It was summer 2016 and both Mark McAulay and Stewart Ainslie (that’s me) were surrounded by mist on the Torridon hills. Something else happened and we decided to set up a design agency. We didn’t do it in a pub because everyone does that these days. Don’t Walk seemed like an appropriate name at the time.
Since then we’ve worked with Scottish Mountain Rescue, Aberdeen Mountain Rescue Team and Ramblers Scotland. The irony of our name isn’t lost on us—or them.
After collaborating for quite some time we officially incorporated as an LLP on March 19th 2018 and would have started trading on April 6th of that very same year. But it wasn’t quite as simple as that.
The bank said no
Or at least they might have done, if they had acted upon our emails or phone calls. Despite applying for a business bank account on March 20th we found ourselves waiting a month for a paper application pack to arrive at our accountants.
Next up we found ourselves stuck in an infinite loop with their twitter ‘bot’ (I am adamant it wasn’t a human). Then they asked us for a cheque to prove our identity. By May the 9th we were beyond keen to invoice our clients. The bank offered us thirty pounds in compensation but we didn’t have an account to put it in.
Eventually they said sorry and paid us a bit more than £30. By May 14th the account was open so we popped their money in to our new bank account. By this point we had met with another bank, Barclays in Aberdeen. We spoke to a human on the phone and in person. They even offered advice on our business plan. It was lovely.
On May 22nd, about a week after meeting with Barclays, we had an account with them. To celebrate, we invoiced our clients.
Don’t Walk were in business.
On the subject of yellow
Little did we know that our greatest challenge still lay ahead of us. As a design firm we just can’t operate without a visual identity. Finally able to turn our attention back to more important things we busted out the colour swatches.
Both Mark and I are partial to a bit of yellow.
Not all yellows are created equal. And we didn’t pick any of the yellows shown here.
People have written entire books on colour theory. So it should come as no surprise to hear we did not take this task lightly.
It would easy to be flippant about the importance of colour in branding. Just because we’re not all the size of Cadbury doesn’t mean we don’t treat ourselves, and our clients with as much reverence.
If you’re interested, these are our colour values for ‘shed yellow’:
- Print (Spot colour): Pantone 102 C
- Print (Process colour): C0 M8 Y79 Y0
- Screen: R255 G236 B45 #ffec2d
- Paper stock: Colorplan Factory Yellow
All this without a mention of our logo*.
A few words on done
Writing a business plan, opening a bank and fighting about colour is all well and good but all the planning in the world doesn’t mean a thing without results. Business results.
We learned a few things over the year and are most proud of the following—
Our model of actual collaboration actually works
You don’t need an office from day one
Meeting face to face is essential
Every piece of work has been our best work
We’ve not done our folio
What we’re currently working on
- A print project for a national charity
- A branding project for a software engineering company
- The brand identity for a life saving charity
- Retail design for a university
- We still don’t have a logo
- Our new website is on the way
- We’re still not 100% about yellow
- We’ll never agree on ice cream vs ice lollies (and that’s ok)
We’ll tell you once we’ve figured it out.
The ‘advice’ (or what we’ve learned)
One year in, we’ve learned that things take quite a long time in business. And whilst that can sometimes be frustrating it’s absolutely worth it.
The last year has been great and we’ve much more to show and tell. If anyone out there is watching, watch this space.
*we might have a shot at our logo this year.